Traveling to the Desert — Day One


December 31.

Heading west from Wisconsin.

Driving to the desert.


100 miles done, 1700 to go.

Crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, Iowa

River is icy, not frozen.


200 miles done, 1600 miles to go.

Iowa farm

Minimalist. Lines.


300 miles done, 1500 miles to go. break in travel for a hometown visit

crossing the Mississippi again, this time into Illinois

river is high on December 31st after unprecedented winter rains

much of Quincy is built high on the bluffs, natural flood protection


the bridge of my childhood travels

crossing this bridge always meant some version of travel adventure — a visit with family who across the river in Missouri or Iowa, or a weekend trip to St. Louis (the big city)


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by. And on the first leg of the journey, all shots are taken through winter-slushed windows.

Hipstamatic filters set on random (but still available for some post processing when desired) and my iPhone add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.

All Winter I Harvest



by Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can’t imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckus of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet—

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.

Five lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh, and an interpretation of a different sort.


ALL WINTER I harvest patience, aware as the darkest dark inches towards light, as seconds of light replace seconds of darkness; from this emerges a daily practice of awareness, of the smallest of movements gathering, of self care, of perseverance, of gratitude.

THEY SHRUGGED THE RIME FROM THEIR SHOULDERS, let me brush the frost from mine, in anticipation of the coming warmth. The sun comes up each morning, visible to me or not, whether I feel its warmth or not. I will not cry out for warmth in this time of darkness and cold, but wrap my grandmother’s shawl about me, gather meanings of old that warm me, hold that warmth in the breast of my body, absorb her energy, matriarchal strength, and rest in the ease she offers.

IT CALLED FOR A MIRACLE but then, let me be honest with myself, each day I call for a miracle and each day I receive a miracle. I awake to yet another day, life continues, life anticipated, deeply desired.

INTO THE DITCHES AND UPHEAVALS, those times in life I’ve pitched forward, dropped to my knees, there where the true meat of living exists, seldom is raw life found in the land of endlessly smooth pathways. Ditches and upheavals are mines for discovery and recovery.

TOSS IN THE BREEZE the worries, toss in kindnesses and the tender swirling of sweet words, add respect, toss once again, gently. Let the refreshment settle on my shoulders, let the winds remind me to inhale and awaken.

Golden Grasses Under Snow Covered Branches

Tree in Olbrich

What do the trees know?
To bend when all the wild winds blow.
Roots are deep and time is slow.
All we grasp we must let go.

~Joyce Sidman

Winter Star at Sunrise – Everyday a Story

Star at Sunrise

Star at Sunrise © 2015 Bo Mackison

There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.”
~ Terry Pratchett

A Tree in Strength and Stillness – A Winter Scene

Winter Scene in Wisconsin

Winter Scene in Wisconsin © 2015 Bo Mackison

What do the trees know?
Buds can weather ice and snow.
Dark gives way to sunlight’s glow.
Strength and stillness help us grow.”
~ Joyce Sidman